In 1996, the Society of Professional Journalists removed a stipulation in its ethics code holding that “News reports should be free of opinion or bias.” Earlier this year, theSPJ’s Ethics Committee released its draft of a revised ethics code which, alas, does not restore the bright-line rule against opinion and bias in news stories that was removed in 1996.
The rule, was on the books for some 70 years before being scotched. What’s more, the 1973version of the code, went on to insist that news reports should “represent all sides of an issue.” That revision of the code also contained language which emphasized the preeminence of truth and objectivity in the practice of journalism “Truth is our ultimate goal” with “Objectivity in reporting the news”another goal in service of that aim.
At their 2001 convention, the SPJ urged “tak[ing] steps against racial profiling in [the]coverage of the war on terrorism." It reminded journalists to stopusing "inflammatory" language and condescendingly said to “help audiences understand the complexities of the events in Pennsylvania, New York City and Washington, D.C.” Story guidelines are (all bold mine):
— Cover the victims of harassment, murder and other hate crimes as thoroughly as you cover the victims of overt terrorist attacks.
— When writing about terrorism, remember to include white supremacist, radical anti-abortionists and other groups with a history of such activity.